(director: Amy Scott; cinematographers: Jonathon Narducci, Adam Michael Becker, Alexandre Naufel; editors: Amy Scott, Sean Jarrett; music: ; cast: Jon Voight, Rosanna Arquette, Beau Bridges, Robert Towne, Jane Fonda, Judd Apatow, Leigh McManus; Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lisa Janssén; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 2018)
“A well-served breezy biopic documentary on Hal Ashby.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Amy Scott, a filmmaker of shorts and musical videos, has her feature directorial debut be a well-served breezy biopic documentary on Hal Ashby, the exceedingly talented but never widely-known filmmaker who was a former editor in the 1960s. He’s one of the unsung legendary American directors from the 1970s. Among his films of note during that fertile period are The Landlord. Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Shampoo, Bound for Glory, Coming Home and Being There. In the latter decades his work was not that favorably received, and today he’s an obscure figure well-remembered and revered mostly by some noted Hollywood luminaries.
Ms. Scott, in a sympathetic way, tells us about when he was good and what has happened since. The documentary covers rare archival footage and ‘talking head’ interviews with the celebrated Hollywood folks most familiar with him. It’s a friendly look at him, offering mild critical insights into his character and praise for his social awareness. The most poignant interview is with Ashby’s daughter Leigh MacManus. The Utah born Mormon survived a rough childhood and dropped out of high school. By the late 1940s he was a pot-smoking bohemian.When he moved to Hollywood he was in his twenties. He eventually became a film editor and worked with director Norman Jewison, who mentored him.
As an editor Ashby won an Oscar for In the Heat of the Night. He was then supported to be a director by Jewison and, in 1970, in his forties, he directed the wonderful dramedy The Landlord. All the reminiscences of Ashby are intercut with clips from his films. Comments are made of Ashby as a workaholic, a drug user and burdened with complicated romances (like unknown children suddenly appearing in his life and his five failed marriages). Blame for his decline is laid largely to the Hollywood executives, those who never could get on board with his excesses and counter-culture stances.
A much older looking Ashby, fully bearded and not groomed like a hippie biker, died at 59 from pancreatic cancer.
REVIEWED ON 9/16/2018 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/